News / Africa

Mugabe's Election Rush Quashes Zimbabwe Reform Hopes

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe jokes with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Harare, May 22, 2013.
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe jokes with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Harare, May 22, 2013.
Reuters
Just after Zimbabwe's top court told President Robert Mugabe to hold elections before the end of July, he appeared in a documentary combining domestic campaign mode with a diplomatic charm offensive.
 
In the fly-on-the-wall show on South African television the 89-year-old opened up on the armed struggle for independence from Britain and making love to his 47-year-old wife.
 
He also revealed he wanted to add to his 33 years at the helm of the poor, land-locked southern African nation.
 
The footage provided a rare glimpse of Mugabe's human side, surrounded by his family, and turned heads in Zimbabwe's powerful neighbor, which is likely to be a major funder of an election and also a judge of its quality.
 
But Africa's oldest head of state skirted around the reforms to the army, police and media that he is under pressure to carry out to ensure a peaceful and credible vote.
 
With the court giving him less than 60 days to call the election, there would be little time — even if he wanted to — to make any meaningful changes to state institutions that remain firmly in his camp.
 
"My people still need me and when people need you to lead them, it is not time, sir — it doesn't matter how old you are — to say goodbye," he told South African interviewer Dali Tambo in the documentary, aired on Sunday but shot several weeks earlier.
 
Five years after the disputed and violent elections that spawned a fractious coalition with his main adversary, Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe's neighbors are desperate to avoid a rerun of a poll that sparked an exodus of opposition supporters.
 
The regional 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) has called a summit this weekend to help Harare raise the estimated $132 million needed for the election, and Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says it will use the opportunity to tackle Mugabe on the issue of reforms.
 
But with the economy bouncing back since 2008 from hyperinflation and a 40 percent economic contraction over the previous eight years, there is every chance that, even in a fair fight, Mugabe's ZANU-PF party might win.
 
Although there are no formal opinion polls, surveys in the last year by Freedom House, a U.S. political think tank, and African research group Afro-Barometer have given Mugabe a narrow lead over Tsvangirai, who has suffered hits to his personal and professional reputation since entering government.
 
"Mugabe's position is informed by his belief that he will win the elections and that ZANU-PF has recovered enough after 2008 to survive Morgan Tsvangirai," said Eldred Masunungure, a political science professor at Harare's University of Zimbabwe.
 
"It is a gamble but we are in an environment in which you cannot rule out ZANU-PF."
 
The MDC disputes the findings of unfavorable voter surveys, saying Zimbabweans are still too afraid to express themselves freely after the 2008 bloodshed, and remains confident of victory.
 
Fig-leaf reform

In March, Zimbabwe's 13 million people overwhelmingly approved a new constitution to replace the one forged in the dying days of British colonial rule in 1979.
 
The new charter lays the foundations for a more balanced political playing field by trimming the powers of the president and enshrining notions such as freedom of the media.
 
But the MDC argues that the vote can only be truly fair if broadcast media are opened up to all parties, new voters are allowed to register freely and the army and police keep out of politics.
 
The court ruling means there is now precious little time to drive through real change.
 
This is especially true of the army, whose leaders are open in their contempt for Tsvangirai, a former union leader who did not play a prominent role in the war against the white-minority government that ran what was then Rhodesia until 1980.
 
The military and police have also been accused of vote rigging and intimidation, leading to Western sanctions against Mugabe and senior ZANU-PF apparatchiks.
 
As such, analysts fear any reforms will amount to little more than fig-leaves — army commanders being asked to issue statements affirming their neutrality and regulators licensing private broadcasters just before the polls.
 
"We might go through some rituals but I don't see anything changing much on the ground," said Lovemore Madhuku, a constitutional law professor and critic of both Tsvangirai and Mugabe.
 
"I am sure Mugabe will concede some ground on some of the issues in deference to SADC and to retain the regional support he needs for political legitimacy."

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid